By Julie Arditti ’18
Afreen Allam was named the grand prize winner of the 16th Annual Duke Startup Challenge Finale, held on October 30, 2015. Her company, Cromoz, doing business as SiNON, hopes to aid in neurological treatments through its development of a nanoparticle, the “Carbon Dot.” This nanoparticle allows drugs to cross the blood-brain barrier and improves drug-localization, which decreases the amount of drug that needs to be administered. The judges appreciated the promise of SiNON, especially in a time of increasing neurological diseases. Allam is a student at the Fuqua School of Business.
The ten finalists competed for the $50,000 grand prize before hundreds of students and a panel of alumni entrepreneur judges. Each finalist had four minutes to explain their product, its impact, its competitive advantage, and the prize money impact. The ideas were diverse and unique and included an online learning resource, Edulyf, which seeks to give equal educational opportunity to students in India, created by Aditya Sharmas, and Ello Raw, a company that makes raw dessert bites containing only natural ingredients, created by Becky Holmes.
While the judges deliberated and the Blue Devil handed out free t-shirts, the audience did some decision-making of their own. By sending in a vote via text message, the audience selected the winner of the $2,500 Audience Choice Award. Jeremy Lipkowitz won for Sangha Teahouse, which is a place to enjoy a variety of teas while taking time to slow down from a hectic day.
The evening’s event began with a presentation from Magdalena Yesil about entrepreneurship and investment in which she discussed her successes and failures and gave tips to student entrepreneurs. Yesil recently worked at US Venture Partners investing in information technology and, along with her family, generously donated the grand prize. A complete video of the 16th Annual Duke Startup Challenge is available here.